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Partnering with Faculty for Deeper Youth Engagement

Once upon a time, there was a group of young people from the UNP Hartland Partnership Center who were anxious to go to California to present their research projects on Policing and Self-Segregation in School. But, alas, COVID hit and the ocean view became just a dream.

Youth Voices worked on these projects for most of the 2019-2020 academic year, and we were excited to share our findings this past April at the 2020 All-In All-Together Conference hosted by the UC Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation and URBAN. The members of Youth Voices were split into two groups and each one chose a topic in our community to research. The group focusing on policing in schools, looked at the history of police officers in schools, and tried to learn why, despite police presence, there was constant fighting and drug use in their school. The group focusing on self-segregation asked why, in their very diverse high school, students still separated themselves in accordance to racial, ethnic, or religious identity.

About a month before the conference, state governments around the country declared a state of emergency and the conference had to be postponed (we are hoping to be in Santa Cruz in 2022!). “I was sad and disappointed”, said Fatma, “we were excited to present and to take pictures of the views.” Omar said that what he really missed was the opportunity to “get famous” from around the country, to come listen to the presentations, and take pictures. While we were discouraged at first, the show must go on! “We didn’t give up, we are still working on it,” said Fatma.

The perseverance of the students paid off, as the conference organizers invited Youth Voices, along with three other univeristy-community partnerships from around the country to be a part of an online event that sought to engage conference participants during the 2020-2021 academic year in preparation for the spring 2022 in-person event. So, on October 23, 2020 Youth Voices members gathered at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center to present virtually to more than 100 conference attendees. “We were going to go to California’’, said Omar, “but COVID didn’t let us. So we brought California to us”. Jeilani felt that the opportunity was great for students. “It was a cool conference and a serious conference. All around it was a good way to introduce the youth to the nature of academic conferences”.

Omar really liked the experience as well. “I don’t like to talk in front of the camera, but they were welcoming and friendly”. Omar continued to say that what most impressed him was the preparation of all the other conference speakers. “It was amazing. The professors seemed like they were not new to Zoom. They were prepared.” The group also appreciated the
opportunity to connect with youth organizers from other areas. One such organizer was Anisah Sabur-Momin from The Bronx, New York. “It felt like she was someone that you knew from the beginning, even though you didn’t know her,” said Omar, who felt that even though Anisah was thousands of miles away in New York, he could connect with her meaningfully. After the conference, Sabur-Momin reached out to Youth Voices and we plan on learning more about the work that she is developing with youth in The Bronx.

While we are disappointed that our dip in the ocean was postponed, we were happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of the URBAN community virtually and to share the amazing work of Youth Voices.

Watch a video featuring members of Youth Voices HERE.

Content provided by The Youth Voices Collective (Fatima Abdul, Ana Antunes, Jeilani Athman, Fatma Bakari, Omar Bakari, Ahmed Bana, Saia Langi, and Rahma Mustafa).